The W5RRR Shack

Station Overview
Welcome to the W5RRR/JSC Amateur Radio Club station page.  The station is located in Building 208 at Johnson Space Center. Bldg 208 is located at the east end of the north parking lot of the Gilruth Center, the employee’s recreation center. The new room, or ‘shack’, is located in the center of the building and features a back door. We share the building with Lunarfins, the SCUBA club here at JSC, the grounds-maintenance garage, the umpire/referee room, a concession stand, and restrooms. The club room has about 500 square feet of floor space.
About mid-March 2007, the building housing W5RRR station, the JSC Lunarfins scuba club and the grounds-maintenance garage was demolished, the slab broken up and removed. A new slab was poured and the building constructed. It took a while longer than expected due to a couple of hurricanes and heavy rainy seasons. Click here to see pictures of the progress of to new building.
Like our old facility, the club station has a satellite VHF/UHF operating console, 3 HF and 1 VHF/UHF operating tables. The floor is carpeted and all cable runs are made in a cable tray around the perimeter of the room about 18″ below the ceiling. We have moved in and are setting up stations, computers, and hanging pictures.
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The HF Stations
The only station in our repertoire of HF radios without an amplifier is the Icom IC-781 HF transceiver. It once had an awesome matching amplifier: the IC-4KL, a 1,500 watt, autotune amplifier. It was the workhorse station for the club for many years. Sadly, a ‘black-box’ power supply in the amplifier failed and Icom service department could not repair it. Due to an admin error at Icom, they also determined that we should never have received that particular amplifier in the first place and so refused to return it to JSCARC.
Next is the Yaesu FT-1000D/FL-7000 station. This station is a great CW station to operate. Semi-automatic antenna tuning of the transceiver and the amplifier make this station an easy and reliable station to operate.
Last, but not least in our HF station inventory, is our Kenwood TS-950SD/TL-922A station. It’s a super performer dishing out CW and SSB QSO’s.
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The VHF/UHF Stations
Because of our involvement with Shuttle Amateur Radio Experiment (SAREX) and Amateur Radio onboard International Space Station (ARISS), the VHF/UHF satellite console received quite a bit of the interest, activity and attention in the station. The console housed three transceivers, a couple of power supplies, VHF/UHF amplifiers, TNC’s, the AZ/EL rotator controller, etc. Our satellite VHF/UHF radios are IC-275 and IC-475 transceivers. For terrestrial use, we installed a Yaesu FT-736R, VHF/UHF/SHF all-mode transceiver.
The VHF/UHF console had a lot of history associated with it. It was from this console that the first earth-space amateur radio contacts are made during SAREX-manifested Space Shuttle flights. Typically, one or two radio checks are made with the astronauts prior to their onboard amateur radio operations: contacts with the scheduled school groups and general DX-style contacts.
Since those early days of SAREX with Drs. Owen Garriott, W5LFL, Tony England, W0ORE, and Ron Parise, WA4SIR, many, many contacts were made with astronauts and cosmonauts from this console. During the times when U.S. astronauts were stationed aboard the Russian Space Station Mir, there were almost daily contacts with Mir from W5RRR. The astronaut got a chance to speak with family members, friends, and co-workers staying up with what was going on on the ground in their absence.
Future activities from this console, or whatever it may evolve to in the future, will certainly include communications with the International Space Station crewmembers. The equipment is assembled, the antennas have been designated, constructed and assigned their OUTSIDE mounting locations, and the astronauts/cosmonauts have received or will receive their licenses.
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The Antennas/Towers
We have been blessed with three great antenna tower systems. The first, is our 80′ Rohn 45G tower. It’s a rock. It’s been through hurricanes, thunderstorms, and, we believe, micro-bursts or mini-tornadoes (we had a 51′ crank up tower at one time which we lost in a sudden thunderstorm which reportedly contained microbursts and may well have caused the tower’s failure–but, the 80′ Rohn 45G tower suffered not a whit.).
The 80′ tower supports a Hy-Gain 204BA, 4-element, 20m beam at the base of the mast and a Cushcraft 1504, 4-element, 15m beam at the top of the mast, about 10′ above the 204BA. The tower also has a 40m sloper, one leg of an 80m dipole (the other leg runs out to the other tower), and a 160m half-sloper. The beams are turned by Ham-II rotator.
Up until the fall of 1998, the 15m beam was fine; the look of the two 4-element beams was a truly a thing of beauty and a wonder to behold–classic antenna art. Then a small tropical storm came through and we lost half of one half of a director element and the rear third of the boom containing the reflector. So, while the 15m beam is now a 2.75 element beam, it still works! SWR is nominal and there seems to be directivity and gain in the direction it’s pointing.
***NEW***The second tower which holds our Cushcraft A3S, a 3-element triband beam for 10-15-20m, and A3S, a 3-element duoband beam for 12-17m, and a VHF/UHF vertical antenna is a 50′ ex-military tower we received a number of years ago from the Ellington Field MARS group. However, it recently suffered a fracture in one of the tower section legs. Because of the hazard and the potential for other fractures appearing, the tower is at this writing (September 2, 2013) scheduled for removal. A replacement tower is going to be procured once the pad is cleared of the old tower and we can accurately measure footings with an eye towards finding a replacement tower. At worst, we may have to vacate the pad and that location and install a pad and new tower at the east side of our building. Stay tuned.
At the bottom of the mast is a Cushcraft A3S, a 3-element, 10-15-20m beam. About 8′ above the A3S is a Cushcraft A3WS+30m add-on, a 3-element, 12-17-30m beam. Mounted on the very top of the mast is a dual-band VHF/UHF vertical. The rotator is a Ham-II*.
*Both rotator control boxes have had Brake-D-Lay’s installed. If you don’t have one installed, you should. They are well worth the $25 price, especially if you have guests come in to operate who are not really up on the correct fingering of the brake and motor controls. It’s cheap insurance.
The third tower was one straight section and one pointy-top section of Rohn 45G. This was our satellite antenna tower. The rotator was a Kenpro xxxx. The 2m antenna was a 24-element, cross-polarized, beam antenna. The 70cm antenna was a 36-element, cross-polarized, beam antenna. The Satellite tower and antennas have been removed. The Tower will be replaced and relocated to a pad next to the building. The antennas are stored away and will be replaced on the tower once the club moves into the new building and the station becomes operational.
Plans are in place for antenna removals, moves and additions involving the antennas on the 50′ and 80′ towers. That work is in hiatus until the new station building is open and functional.
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Equipment Manuals
The Club has developed a set of operating instructions to help members to get on the air quickly and easily. Each operating position has its own notebook containing not only a set of set-up and operating instructions for that radio position, but for each of the other positions, as well. Set-up instructions for each station are divided into CW mode, SSB mode, and Barefoot/Amplifier modes.The following manufacturer’s manuals (PDF format) are available here for members to get up to speed on the HF equipment.

Yaesu FT-1000 HF Transceiver
Yaesu FL-7000 HF Amplifier
Icom IC-781 HF Transceiver
Kenwood TS-2000 HF/VHF/UHF Transceiver
CDE Ham-II Rotator
…more to follow.
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Miscellaneous Station Equipment

Two-Meter Repeater
The JSCARC supports an open 2m repeater (146.64r/.04t – no tone). The repeater is located in the rooftop penthouse (equipment room) of the 9-story JSC Project Management building, Building 1, at Johnson Space Center.
The Spectrum Communications SCR-500 repeater has a power output of 25 watts. The antenna, a Diamond G7-144, provides approximately 6db gain, giving an effective radiated power (ERP) of 100 watts and providing coverage to a radius of approximately 30 miles (downtown Houston-Downtown Galveston). The antenna is mounted atop the Building 1’s penthouse roof (effectively, the 11th floor).
The repeater has survived two hurricanes, tropical storms, and numerous Texas-sized thunderstorms. It has a back-up battery system designed to provide repeater operation for at least 36 hours. The repeater ID changes to “W5RRR BAT” when it is on battery power.
The JSCARC repeater carries the International Space Station (ISS) air-to-ground audio for local hams and non-hams. During shuttle flights, the mission audio is given over to the space shuttle mission audio. On landing, audio is switched back to ISS audio.
Because of the repeater’s wide-area coverage of the NASA-Clear Lake area and the JSCARC’s commitment to fulfill its public service obligation, the repeater is frequently used to provide communications for the many and varied public service events.
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Station Pictures/Posters
Arrayed around the walls of the station were numerous pictures and posters. Most all of the pictures and posters have been stored away until we can start moving into the new shack. The space shuttle crew pictures were designed by the crews as mementos and tokens of thanks to those organizations and folks who supported them in their flights. Some of the posters are those which are used during public events such as space-related and ham-related conventions, in which SAREX (and now ARISS) project was presented.
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Webmaster note: The 204BA, 20m, 4-element beam has an interesting history. Back in the early 70’s, I was working in the communications center at here at JSC (back then, it was called Manned Spacecraft Center–MSC). One of our tasks in the commcen (mostly teletype and facsimile) was to operate a couple of Collins-equipped HF stations on the NASA Emergency Radio Network and perform weekly radio checks with the other NASA Centers around the country.
A scientist working on a joint U.S. Dept of Agriculture-NASA-Mexican Dept. of Agriculture-Mexican Space Commission project in Mexico had been making daily telephone calls back to JSC to file his activity report. After a few monthly bills had been received in the Telephone Office for the long distance phone calls, someone suggested that the scientist should be provided a radio with which to files his reports.
It was decided that sending someone (me) down to his location and setting him up with some Collins radio equipment and antenna/tower hardware would be cheaper in the long run.
So, with a KWM-2A, Power Supply, a 30L1 amplifier, a 204BA antenna, fifty feet of Rohn 45G, guy wire, guy anchors, and other hardware, KG5U spent a total of four weeks (two two-week trips) working in and around the small town of Fortín de las Flores (Fountain of the Flowers). Fortín is an absolutely beautiful, ‘typical’ Mexican small-town, located halfway between Veracruz and Mexico City.
While there, I and some local hired helpers to help me, installed the tower and antenna (no rotator was needed), shopped for needed, additional hardware in the nearby cities of Orizaba and Cordoba. I quickly got accustomed to the Mexican afternoon siesta time, late dinners, wonderful people, great food, beautiful countryside, and the overall lifestyle. Once the station was all set up and ready to operatoe, it was a matter of waiting on the license to come through from the Mexican ‘FCC’.
Because it was going to take a while, I was recalled to Houston until the license arrived. Once it arrived, I flew down to Veracruz, drove out to Fortín and trained Dr. Broce on the operation of the radio equipment. After a week and a half there, making sure Dr. Broce was comfortable with the procedures and operation of the radio and amplifier, I returned to Houston.
Until the project was over a couple of years later, Dr. Broce filed his daily reports via the radio station and the HF station in our commcenter office where we phone-patched him through to his JSC secretary.
After the project was over, the antenna and other hardware returned to JSC and was given to the JSC Amateur Radio Club for it’s use.
Cool, huh? 73, de dale/kg5u)